Visiting sunny Arizona around Thanksgiving has been our family tradition for a long time now. While in summer the Arizonian sun can melt the asphalt, the fall and winter months are unbelievably beautiful there. One of Arizona’s great attractions for us are the Sinagua and Anasazi Indian ruins, most of which have been remarkably preserved. Although it’s fascinating to learn about the Indians from the history books, it’s much more impressive to visit the land they walked and cultivated and to see the remains of their dwellings.
This past week we visited the Tuzigoot National Monument, one of several sites south of Flagstaff where you can see the remains of the Sinagua Indian pueblos. Unlike the single cliff dwelling of Montezuma Castle just 20 miles southeast, Tuzigoot is comprised of a cluster of buildings on top of a small sandstone ridge, rather reminiscent of the Wupatki National Monument, next to Sunset Crater.
Tuzigoot is small but lovely. Located in the Verde River Valley, near the towns of Clarkdale and Cottonwood, the ruins spans over 42 acres and consist of 110 rooms, including second and third story structures. Most of the rooms are just fragments, with partly-preserved walls a few feet high. The largest dwelling, on top of the hill, is complete – with a reconstructed ceiling and a ladder that
leads up to the roof. At one time this settlement was home to around 250 people.
The first buildings were erected around A.D. 1000. The Sinagua were agriculturalists who farmed the land below, but they were also very successful traders. The people left the area around 1400.
The Tuzigoot National Monument is easy to visit in terms of accessiblitiy. A self-guided 1/3-mile loop trail leads you around and through the dwellings. The trail starts at the visitor center which was built in 1935 after the excavation of the ruins and it was made to blend in with the reconstructed site. The trail also offers great views of the Verde River and Tavasci Marsh. At the visitor center there is a small museum and small gift shop.
Tuzigoot is an Apache word meaning “crooked water” and that is what lies 120 feet below the settlement – the Verde River. The story says that the pueblos were discovered by two graduate students who happened to be invited for dinner at the mansion on the former estate. They noticed an unusual pile of rocks in the area and this is how Tuzigoot resurfaced. Tuzigoot was excavated in 1933-1934 by archaeologists Louis R. Caywood and Edward H. Spicer. During excavation, 429 sets of human remains were discovered. These were found buried in the hillside with a few personal possessions. Many of these remains were reburied at the site after excavation was completed.
There are some interesting facts about the Tuzigoot dwellings: